Job 11:7-8 | Job 1:20-21 | Job 42:7 | 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Bible verses are not bumper stickers.
Have you ever been confused by a verse or passage of scripture? Of course you have. How can a book contain deep truths about the character of God and always be easily understood?
“Can you solve the mysteries of God?Can you discover everything about the Almighty? Such knowledge is higher than the heavens—and who are you? It is deeper than the underworld—what do you know?”(Job 11:7-8 NLT)
The scripture above isn’t very promising, is it? Why even study the Bible if it says that we cannot solve the mysteries of God?
But consider the context of this scripture. First it is found in the book of Job, which tells the story of a very rich man (named Job, pronounced like “Jobe”) whom God described as being “of complete integrity,” and allowed him to be tested by Satan (Job 1:8-12 NLT). Job’s seven sons and three daughters, their homes and servants, and all their many livestock were destroyed.
Job was devastated. But it did not change his opinion of God.
Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”(Job 1:20-21 NLT)
Afterward, Satan afflicted Job with painful sores all over his body. Three of Job’s friends came to comfort him. They tore their own clothes and sat with him in the dust. Then they stubbornly gave Job loads of lame advice.
The passage above (Job 11:7-8) was spoken by Job’s well-meaning friend Zophar, as a preamble to his first helping of lame advice. While Zophar’s words describe the wonderful and awesome nature of God, they act as the opening argument in his bitter rebuke of Job. They are directed toward Job and meant to humiliate him into admitting some unknown sin. God even rebukes Zophar for his counsel to Job.
After the Lord had finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.”(Job 42:7 NLT)
You would do better to quote Paul’s doxology in Romans 11:33-36 than Zophar’s rebuke in Job 11 when speaking of God’s awesomeness.
Does this mean you should only trust scripture if you are a Bible scholar? That’s a big nope. Then what does it mean? It means you should not treat Bible verses like bumper stickers.
Each verse is a piece of a bigger story, which must be accounted for when considering its meaning. Notice that, in the above example, we had to read through the 42 chapters of Job to fully understand the context of Zophar’s words (in Job 11:7-8).
Dear friend, please continue searching God’s Word for deeper meaning and truth. But as you do, ask God to reveal his message to you as you consider how to apply his Word to your life. As you do, remember this:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.(2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT)
Questions for Group Discussion
- Have you ever changed your opinion of the meaning of a particular verse or passage of scripture? If so, which one and how? What changed your mind?
- Can a verse or scripture passages mean two different things at the same time? If so, can you think of an example?
- What are some Bible verses you feel are often misapplied or taken out of context? Can you explain how the context changes their meaning?
- Why is context such an important consideration when studying scripture?
Challenge: See the Bigger Picture
Considering context can apply to more than just scripture. If you feel up to it…below is the difficult proposition of taking this into your daily life.
Here is your challenge:
Wait for the next time someone says something that offends you. Or just hurts your feelings. If you’re an easy going person, it may take a while. When it happens, stop yourself mid-reaction and do this: consider the context of the offensive remark.
Take a deep, calming breath and ask the person who made the remark some follow-up questions like the ones below to help contextualize what was said.
- “Do I understand you correctly?” (Then summarize your understanding of what was said.)
- “What exactly were you trying to communicate when you said that?”
- “Was that statement directed toward me personally, or meant in a more general way?”
- “Would you be offended if someone said something like that to you?”
- “How are you doing right now? Is your mood a factor in what you just said?”
Entering into conversation with someone who has offended you is a risky proposition, so take care not to escalate the situation and become more offended. Your goal in asking these questions is to gain a clear picture of what this person was trying to communicate when they offended you with their comment.
Our hope is that through this challenge you will see that many times people are not trying to be offensive in their communication. You will see that many times people say offensive things because they are in a bad mood, or hungry, or just hurting. Sometimes it’s them, and sometimes it’s you. And most times, seeing the bigger picture helps.
Father in heaven, thank you for giving us the ability to know you. Please reveal yourself to us as we try honestly and diligently to learn more about you. Open our hearts and minds to your truth and lead us to the true intents of each word of your scripture. In Jesus’ name, Amen.